Wikimedia Fellowships/Project Ideas/Help pages redesign leader
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Note, although this page is currently archived, it's worth mentioning that a very similar idea was taken up by Wikimedia Community Fellow Peter Coombe in 2012, as discussed here.
The purpose of this fellowship would be to lead a community effort to turn the mess of help pages on English Wikipedia into something more elegant and measurably more useful to newcomers. The leader of this redesign effort would commission usability tests for the main help pages, identify the most common use cases for the help pages, and test alternative designs to see if they can better meet the help needs of newcomers.
Our help pages are a confusing mess. There is a lot of detailed content on various help pages, but there is so much of it, and so many links on the main help pages that users can access from the sidebar, that it's very easy to get lost.
Targeted - addresses strategic theme(s) or goals
This fellowship is aimed at improving the experience of newcomers. Website users are used to utilizing "Help" pages, and there is a lot of room for improvement in making help pages that better address the most common issues newcomers have during their critical early interactions. Better organization and design for help pages can also help retain intermediate editors as they move on to more complex tasks.
Actionable - has concrete deliverables and outcomes
The key contributions of the fellow for this project include:
- Designing, commissioning and evaluating usability tests of the main help pages
- Leading the compilation of a list critical use cases that the main help landing pages should address
- Coordinating the creation of testable alternative designs for key help pages
- Running usability tests for alternative designs
- Coordinating community discussion to implement the best help page designs
Impactful - can have impact on a large group of people, articles, projects
The main help landing page, Help:Contents, gets about 10k hits per day. Anecdotally, experienced users don't use it that much, and newcomers actively looking for specific help don't find it very useful.
Sustainable - builds volunteer-driven continuity over time
The testing framework, as well as the community focus on the actual, measured needs of newcomers, would lay the groundwork for volunteers to delve deeper into the mine of help pages and redesign the help sub-pages and sub-sub-pages and so on along similar principles.
Scalable - has the potential to transfer knowledge or approaches to multiple languages or projects
A great, tested help page design based on the actual use cases of newcomers could be translated to other projects.
Measurable - can demonstrate impact
Success can be measured by repeating usability testing with redesigned help pages to see if newcomers have an easier time finding the help information they are seeking.
Submitted by 
Ragesoss 14:58, 21 December 2011 (UTC)
This section is for endorsements by Wikimedia community volunteers. Please note that this is not a debate, vote, or poll, but is rather a space for volunteers to describe in detail why they think a project idea is of value. If you have concerns or questions rather than an endorsement to make, please use the idea Talk page. Endorsements by volunteers willing to work in collaboration with a fellowship recipient on a project are highly encouraged.
- yes. not easy, but needed. Could maybe do it in pieces? Scalable to other languages? -- phoebe | talk 17:25, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
- The help system on Wikipedia is in dire need of a complete rewrite. It just throws too much text at people. ←fetchcomms 04:58, 30 January 2012 (UTC)
- I've tried to improve the help system in the past, but having grown up ad hoc over the years, it has questionable structure and I think still doesn't meet the needs of newcomers well. Any serious attempt to improve that (with usability testing) is welcome. Rd232 (talk) 23:08, 24 February 2012 (UTC)
- About the most important and practical thing that can be done online at present without vast amounts of input. Johnbod (talk) 16:45, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
- It would be nice if, for the more generic parts, the generic mediawiki help on mediawiki.org could also be improved. Bawolff (talk) 23:48, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
- This is indeed important and need. My concern is that it's really hard to get right. The proposal mentions measurability, but I would only feel comfortable endorsing this if an informed and extensive course of A/B testing is employed throughout the fellowship, not just when an expensive product is ready (what if it's not better?). Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 04:42, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
- Yes. With the increasing problems of editor decline, having a solid help system for all the new editors will help them continue to stay with the projects and thrive in the otherwise daunting wiki environment. The Helpful One 18:52, 23 April 2012 (UTC)